Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Tour of Old Bedford Village

Tour of Old Bedford Village
Bedford County, Pennsylvania

"Ye Sentenced to the Stocks"
One of the side trips Donnie and I made during our overnight adventure was a visit to Old Bedford Village located just down the road from Fort Bedford... or so we thought.  It was the most difficult destination to find during our trip, requiring guidance from my Tom Tom GPS, iPhone Map Quest App, and old fashioned trial and error.  It was one of the sites my previous grad group had passed by while exploring the Forbes Road and I had always wanted to see what it was all about.  My wife had lived in Bedford for about five years when she was in still attending public school as a teenager but she had never been there either.  As a result, Donnie and I were on our own.  I remembered the site was sandwiched between two major roadways but we were going in circles.  Eventually, we saw a sign that finally pointed the way and we soon crossed the covered bridge that marked the entrance to the site.  We followed the road into the nearly empty parking lot, just outside the visitors center.  It was getting more hot and humid by the minute, which may have limited visitation in the mid-day hours of late July.     

Pathway to Old Bedford Village
We paid the ten dollar admission fee and exited the air-conditioned visitors center and followed the pathway across a small foot bridge into the recreated town.  There were about 40 different buildings within the village, each fulfilling an essential purpose for the invisible residents from a bygone era.  Most of the buildings on the site were rescued from demolition by various organizations and concerned citizens who wanted to save the architecture from the area's past.  In a way Old Bedford Village is kind of like a retirement home for colonial era buildings from nearby counties, where modern development required their removal.  Other buildings were rescued from neglect and deterioration from the elements.  Teams of workers, funded from various sources, deconstructed threatened buildings from the area and then put them meticulously back together.  These efforts have enabled endangered buildings to continue their lifespan, reborn within the Old Bedford Village property so they could now be protected and preserved .    

 Fort Bedford on the Forbes Road
Some of the buildings on the property are actually several buildings combined into a new larger structure.  One such example is the Kegg-Blasko House, which conjoins two separate homes that were both deteriorating and could not be completely saved as a single home unto themselves.  The Kegg portion of the newly combined house was built in 1768, while the Blasko half of the house was constructed 22 years later in 1790.  However, both homes were approximately the same dimensions and were originally built using similar materials and construction methods.  These characteristics made it easier to merge the two rescued halves together to create a new structure that could be preserved.  Maybe they call it the Frankenstein Method of saving historic structures at risk, minus the electrical charge?  Regardless, the end result was seamless and saved two architectural artifacts from America's past from disappearing from the landscape altogether.  

Rescued Colonial Buildings
We were getting hot and thirsty, prompting a stop at the General Store that sold a wide variety of wares to the local townspeople they could not make for themselves.  Like many general stores from the time period, the building also served as the town's local post office, making it the center hub for news from the outside world.  The store's authentic counter and corner post office boxes came from the Shipley Store that was once existed in the village of Rainsburg, located nearby within Bedford County.  Inside we were able to purchase old fashioned fruit flavored soda pop served in classic glass bottles and penny candy stored in large glass jars.  Unfortunately, the prices were in line with modern times!  However, my old-fashioned root beer was ice-cold, a characteristic not possible with today's aluminum cans and plastic bottles from modern vending machines.  It was very refreshing!      

Potter at the Wheel
As Donnie and I walked around, we discovered that many of the friendly artisans and acting townspeople were retired teachers.  Apparently, Old Bedford Village was a place where many former educators could take up residence within the retired buildings to continue teaching part-time.  The potter working the wheel of Fisher's Pottery Shop was previously an art teacher for almost 30 years at a local school district.  Old Bedford Village offered a way for him to continue to share his love of art with the public by demonstrating the age-old pottery craft.  He was making a small stoneware cup and showed the process of adding a blue salt glaze paint to give the piece color.  It was getting hotter outside but it was really hot in his shop because he had the kiln working, firing several pots he had created earlier.  The walls were filled with wooden shelves housing his finished creations, including bowls, mugs, plates, candle holders, ink wells, etc. in a variety of colors.  They were all for sale and proceeds from the purchases help support their programs and restoration projects.   

Lonely Cabin by the Creek
Some of the earliest homes that were built in the Bedford community were now preserved on the site, such as the Biddle House, which was first built in 1762 by Pennsylvania Germans.  When the village needed a place of worship, Christ Church was constructed on site from recycled building materials that had been collected and saved from the appropriate time period.  The church was built according to the size, style, and similar specifications of the Old Union Church in nearby Schellsburg within Bedford County.  The church is well maintained and gave the appearance of an active congregation.  It can be rented out to the public for church services, including your dream colonial era wedding event.  Similar to the village church, Antonson's Blacksmith Shop is also a structure created from rescued materials, period correct from old homes and barns from Bedford County's past.  This was a common practice during the colonial time period as recycling is as old as America itself.  Just like everything else, re-useable dressed lumber never went to waste.

Blacksmith Busy at his Craft
Antonson's Blacksmith Shop was one of the more interesting points of interest during our visit because it was manned by a real blacksmith at work demonstrating his ancient craft.  The blacksmith was one of the most important residents of any colonial settlement.  He could repair and make farm tools, forged horseshoes, repaired weapons, made ammunition, and even shackled criminals, binding their hands and legs in irons to prevent their escape.  The blacksmith in residence during our visit was making cookware utensils and was a wealth of knowledge, explaining the methods of his skilled labor.  Some of his finished creations were on display and could be purchased by visitors.  I bought an early version of a colonial era screwdriver for a few dollars to put on display in my classroom within my make-shift museum.  On my back counter I have a large printer's drawer set up, where students can handle and examine small artifacts from the time period we are studying.  I guess you could call it the middle school version of Show and Tell!

Stone Pathway through Village Center
We made a stop at the Pendergrass Tavern, which was once a trading post and tavern located just outside the walls of Fort Bedford.  I got another root beer and we took a break inside, which seemed slightly air conditioned.  All the other buildings were very hot inside, void of any breeze or fresh air.  I got the same feeling I experience at home when I open up my backyard shed to get some tools during the summer months. We re-energized at the tavern and continued on to check out the broom makers shop, candle maker's shop, gunsmith, weaver's mill, school house, coopers and print shop, just to name a few.  It was now in the mid 90's and we were just about "Old Bedford Villaged" out so we decided to skip the farm animal section of the tour and instead made our way back toward the gift shop at the visitor's center.  It was time to go find some more of Donnie's relatives and drop in on them at mealtime unannounced... Surprise!

Settler Seamstress at Work
The village was very picturesque and was probably equally so during the winter months, with the town's buildings covered in a blanket of snow.  I took a lot of great pictures that I will use in my PowerPoint presentations associated with my lessons on Colonial America, which I often use in class.  Old Bedford Village started in the early 70's when a farm was purchased from the Gilson family for the purpose of creating a historic village.  The approach of the Bicentennial Celebration caused much of America to recognize the need to preserve our past from being lost to time.  Old Bedford Village is one such example of that awareness.  Hopefully the site will be able to continue indefinitely into the future by attracting visitation through living history programs, reenactments, and community events.  The village hosts multiple local school field trips, Civil War Reenactments, an Annual Muzzle Loaders and Gun Builder's Show, French and Indian War Programs, Murder Mystery Evenings, and an Old Fashioned Christmas in December.   Take the time to check it out next time you are in Bedford, Pennsylvania.  Be sure to map out a detailed route ahead of time to find it on your very first attempt!   

"Ye Sentenced to the Brig"

Please View My Additional Photos of Olde Bedford Village at...

Old Bedford Village
220 Sawblade Road

Bedford, PA 15522
(814) 623-1156


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Under and Over Sideling Hill

Under and Over Sideling Hill
Fulton County, Pennsylvania

 Donnie at the Miller Homestead
(Fannettsburg, Pennsylvania)
It was the end of July and the summer was quickly slipping away.  My friend and teaching colleague Donnie Miller and I had planned an overnight trip west along Route 30, which was first known as the Forbes Road during the French and Indian War.  Several years ago I had traveled to the Sideling Hill section of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which had been abandoned in 1968 and replaced by a thirteen mile bypass overhead.   As a graduate student traveling as part of a group studying the Forbes Road, we stopped our tour bus to hike to the entrance of the abandoned Sidling Hill Tunnel.  A few of us were able to penetrate about 100 yards into the darkness before being called back to the tunnel entrance.  As always, we were on a tight schedule, locked to the clock, and had to keep moving.  Several of us wanted to plan a return trip to the tunnel to hike all the way to the other side.  However, over time we lost touch and the return trip never happened until Donnie and I made plans for an overnight trek through Fulton County.  It was a two day tour for two history nerds.  What could be more fun?

Abandoned Turnpike Westbound Lane
I knew Donnie said he had hunted in the area but never realized before our trip that his family was originally from Fulton County.  We were traveling along the Turnpike when we ran into dead stop traffic from a possible accident, out of sight up ahead.  Luckily, we were right near an exit and Donnie knew the way.  We merged onto Route 30, previously known as the Lincoln Highway and named the Forbes Road during the French and Indian War.  We went over and around the mountains toward our destination following the historic roadway.  We passed one Pennsylvania Historic Marker after another, often pulling off the road to read them and follow the story west toward Pittsburgh.  Donnie knew the area in detail with many family members still living in the region.  We took a little side detour to drop in on his aunt to say hello in a town called Fannettsburg but unfortunately, she wasn't home.  He took me down the street to a square little home, which looked a little bigger than just a few rooms in size.  It turned out to be the home where his father was born.  The little white house has no interior plumbing and currently sits empty as a monument to a bygone era and the Miller family's heritage. 

Sideling Hill Tunnel / East Entrance
We made our way to Breezewood where Route 30, 70, and 76 all come together creating the perfect  traveler's pit-stop location.  The single road through this section of town catering to tourists, was flanked on both sides by hotels, motels, and endless places to dine in or out.  Evidence of the struggling economy was easy to see as several hotels and restaurants were closed down, vacant, or up for sale.  We pulled into a Hardees to try something different in the realm of fast food cuisine.  I hear Hardees are really big down south and we both thought it was good choice to fill our tank before going for a hike on the abandoned turnpike tunnel.  Our next step was to find where we could park to gain access to the Sideling Hill Tunnel.  It is difficult to find a road that has been officially abandoned for over 40 years.  Donnie came prepared with some paperwork he printed off the internet to help guide us to our destination.  Brian Troutman's detailed website, outlining abandon sections of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, turned out to be a great help. 

Abandoned Tunnel Midway Point
We traveled down a very narrow single lane road off the map toward a locked metal gate that blocked our progress any further.  Peering through the trees on our left, we saw a brief glimpse of a hidden ribbon of decaying concrete.  We parked the car on a narrow berm and sidestepped through the thick tree and brush line that marked the edge of the roadbed.  Once in the open, in the middle of what was left of the west bound lane, I could the see the access point nearby, where I had entered the site a few years earlier from the opposite side.  We took a drink, grabbed our gear and headed west past a large macadam space off to our right that had once been home to the Sideling Hill Cove Valley Travel Plaza.  The abandoned roadway had been used as a test site for new safety innovations, including the rumble strips designed to wake a driver who falls asleep at the wheel and begins to drift off the road, which are now in common use everywhere.  The road and tunnel were also considered as a storage space for military aircraft and weapons but remained empty of government surplus hardware.     

(Image Credit / Google Images)
It was a hot day and unlike hiking through the woods, there is no shade to protect you from the rays of the sun walking down a former highway.  We were glad that the weather this day was somewhat overcast, preventing the concrete below our feet from heating up excessively.  We walked about a mile without finding the tunnel entrance in sight.  It was interesting to see how nature was slowly consuming what man had left unmaintained.  How long would it take for the former highway to disappear from view altogether?  As we slowly rounded a slight curve to our right, the entrance to the tunnel suddenly came into sight off in the distance.  We were very hot by now and looked forward to the cooler temperatures inside the tunnel, which I remembered fondly from my last visit in the July heat.  We stopped just outside the mouth of the tunnel that had been decorated and defiled with multi-colored graffiti, which continued inside from one end of the tunnel to the other.  We explored the side rooms just inside the tunnel's mouth that once provided access to upstairs ventilation shafts and utility rooms.  The staircases had been removed to deny public entry and prevent accidents.

Sideling Hill Tunnel / West Exit 
We entered inside the tunnel and could barely see a small glimmer of light in the vast darkness being reflected on the distant concrete ceiling.   There are two tunnels you can travel through when hiking the stretch of abandoned turnpike roadway.  Just beyond Sideling Hill Tunnel and more abandoned turnpike roadway is Rays Tunnel, that continues the route on to Breezewood.  We didn't know it at the time but if we would have walked the entire length, we would have wound up back in Breezewood, a short distance away from the Hardees restaurant we had lunch an hour earlier.  The Sideling Hill Tunnel was the longest of the two at 6,782 feet, well over a mile in length.  We continued walking in the darkness, occasionally turning on a flashlight to check for possible hazards in front of our pathway.  It was like walking on a treadmill because you had no real points of reference, giving the illusion you weren't moving at all.  In time, the faint light on the ceiling in the distance grew in size and added to the feeling of walking nowhere fast.  We could monitor our progress by watching spray painted number markers on the side walls that counted the sections of the tunnel.

 Tunnel Exit West Toward Breezewood
As we got closer and closer to the west end of the tunnel, the level of light continued to increase.  Water seepage fell from the concrete ceiling onto the floor and flowed out the end of the mouth of the tunnel outside.  The roadway continued on in the full light of day, down a gentle slope, rounding a bend, and disappeared from sight into the trees of the mountainside.  We took a few minutes to examine the mouth of the tunnel that was a flipped duplicate of the other side.  In a few minutes we did an about face and proceeded back east into the darkness.  We again turned off the flash light and allowed our eyes to adjust to the dimness of the man-made cave.  Several times we came to an abrupt stop when anticipating a pitfall of concrete debris just in front of our path.  However, when we checked out the hazard in front of us with the flashlight, it was always miniscule in scope, somehow magnified by the small amount of light.  Maybe I had read Edgar Allen Poe's The Pit and the Pendulum too many times, but I wasn't taking any chances.  The gloomy damp tunnel was certainly the appropriate environment for one of Poe's stories and we reverted to the flashlight to check our way as needed!          

 Deer Cross the Turnpike
We continued back east toward the light at the end of the tunnel... Sorry but I couldn't resist!  We came out the end and into the sunlight once again.  The trip back to the car seemed to go faster than our earlier approach to the tunnel entrance because we now could anticipate the distance we needed to travel.   The water bottles on ice in the cooler in the back of the car were also an incentive to speed our pace, as the sun was again making an appearance through the clouds.  As we approached the highway straightaway near the end of our hike, Donnie's keen hunting skills came alive again as he spotted several deer crossing the turnpike roadbed a short distance ahead of our position.  We had a little trouble finding the small opening in the thick treeline that granted us access at the start of our hike but we eventually found the narrow zig-zag path cloaked in greenery.  We got a nice cool drink and headed back on the road to continue exploring the rural beauty of Fulton County.  Just in case you were historically curious... Yes, the county is named in honor of Robert Fulton who was born in Lancaster County and is credited with successfully applying steam power to watercraft in his famous Clermont.  Why and what the area's connection to the famous inventor are remain a mystery to me?

 Donnie on Top of the World
We began making our way back east to Chambersburg, where we planned to stay the night at another one of Donnie's relatives.  The man has family connections all over this area!  Rather than get back on the turnpike, we decided to stay on Route 30, which was much more interesting to see and connected to history.  With Donnie's knowledge of the area, it was a fail safe decision.  After touring around for awhile, we headed back toward Sliding Hill Mountain.  Soon we were climbing the switchbacks toward the mountain top that General Forbes' engineers had constructed 250 years earlier during the French and Indian War.  As we reached the summit of Sliding Hill we were in the middle of Buchanan State Forest named for President James Buchanan who was born in the area but lived most of his life in Lancaster.  The forest is named in honor of the 15th President of the United States and the only person to serve the office from the state of Pennsylvania.  The vast forest encompasses five tracts of wooded land totaling over 75,000 acres.  Another Fulton County connection to Lancaster County... I was learning so much!   

Sideling Hill Summit
Sidling Hill is part of the Blue Mountain chain of the Appalachians and has a summit height of 2,195 feet, which is marked by a large blue and white sign along the Route 30 roadside.  A small park also marks the summit spot where you can pull off and take a break from the road.  We decided to explore a side gravel road to see if we could get a view of the valley below and were encouraged by a small sign that pointed the way to a scenic view.  The road seemed to go quite a distance but never gave a hint of the incredible view, hidden by a border of thick trees that paralleled the road.  Eventually, the road began a slight descent and we were about to turn around when a small observation area suddenly came into view.  We parked the car and were instantly humbled by the breath taking view of the vast Pleasant Ridge Valley far below.  Unfortunately, it was a hot and hazy day that would later give way to stormy skies, which obstructed the clarity of my pictures.  The view would have been even more impressive with clear skies.  However, pictures of the view could never compare to seeing the valley from the summit in person in real time.

Turkey Buzzard on Patrol
We were so high our feet became a little numb with vertigo when getting close to the edge, which dropped off drastically.  We both agreed a return visit in the fall season would be amazing to see the brilliant colors of the leaves in late September or October.  Birds of prey were taking full advantage of the thermal updrafts, gliding in a circular dance of flight in performing groups that were amazing to watch.  Occasionally, a turkey buzzard or hawk would break free of the pattern and glide close overhead or perch atop a nearby tree.  You know you are high up when you look down on birds flying below.  We absorbed the view from every possible vantage point and it turned out be a surprise highlight of our trip.  We left the summit and were off to find the next point of interest on our list.  Along the way, Donnie's active hunting senses were pointing out flocks of wild turkeys and small groups of white tailed deer.  Unfortunately, neither were currently in season and we were getting hungry!   

 Hot Turkey Sandwich Diner Style
It was beginning to get dark and a steady rain was now falling soaking the thirsty farm fields abundant in Fulton County.  I suddenly noticed my gas gauge warning light was on and my tank was nearly empty.  I was a little concerned because we appeared to be in the middle of rural wet darkness, isolated from the modern world.  However, Donnie came through with his internal Fulton County GPS skills, navigating us to a small crossroads near the community Fort Littleton that had a gas station still open and restaurant about to close for the night.  We filled the gas tank and got inside the small old-fashioned diner just in time.  We were both very hungry despite snacking on Donnie's deer jerky from the cooler in the car on occasion.  Hardees seemed a very long time ago!   At the Fort Family Restaurant, Donnie ordered a hot roast beef sandwich, while I went with the hot turkey sandwich with mashed potatoes and french fries, all smothered in thick gravy!  It really hit the spot for both of us after a long day of exploration and discovery.  It was so much to eat, neither of us could finish our meal.  A perfect ending to a great day!  Soon we bedding down for the night and looking forward to continuing our adventure the next day.

 Tune in next time as we continue our adventure

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Greatest Show on Earth

The Greatest Show on Earth
Giant Center / Hershey, Pennsylvania

Circus Comes to Town in Papatoetoe, CA
(Photo Credit / Manukau Library / 1962)
Nothing is more exciting than the circus coming to town!  My father recently recounted one of his most exciting memories from his childhood.  He was about eight years old and had gone with his mother into Lancaster city to visit his grandmother on Queen Street.  He was out on the sidewalk playing and watching the busy city world around him that was so unlike his rural home on the family farm located on a dirt road in Warwick Township.  He was riding his bike up and down the street when he heard a loud sound coming from down the street to the north.  In the distance was an enormous elephant marching down the street right toward him.  People came out onto front porches and stoops to see the spectacle of exotic animals and wagons make their way down Queen Street toward the fair grounds.  

Star Spangled Elephant
What a great way to advertise your arrival!  It was a spontaneous parade right in the middle of the day and the calliope played the festive music to compliment the scene.  My father later attended the circus accompanied by his older sister Lois, who bought him a chameleon to take home as an exotic souvenir to remember the event.  How cool is that?  I didn't ask him how long it lived... It probably didn't live a full twenty-four hours so I didn't ask!  Childhood pet memories can be painful.  I still remember the crayfish I caught in a stream when I was a kid.  I found it upside down and dead in my fish bowl the next morning.  At first I thought he was sleeping and, well, you can guess the rest.  It still hurts!  Anyway... On with the show!

Zebra Paddock Area
I vaguely remember my father taking me to a small traveling circus in nearby Manheim, Pennsylvania.  Like my father, I specifically remember the elephants and being afraid of the massive animals as we visited them in the elephant's tent before the show.  They were chained to the ground with a thick metal cuff around their foot.  Anything that was this big and needed to be chained down, couldn't be safe to be around.  They were massive, especially when you are standing right next to them and even more so, when you are only eight years old!  I had always wanted to take my daughter Katelyn to the circus and I recently had an opportunity as the Ringling Brother and Barnum Bailey Circus was in Hershey, PA for a few weeks to present their famous performances, touted as the Greatest Show on Earth!   

The Famous Elephants at Rest
I was able to order last minute tickets through Ticketmaster.  They seemed to be half decent seats for only twenty dollars each.  I didn't mind paying the necessary fees for ordering online or the unavoidable mystery taxes that added to the final cost of the tickets.  However, my one knock on Hershey is the fact that in addition to paying for tickets, you also have to pay ten dollars to have your car wait outside in the parking lot.  I equate their pay-to-park policy to paying a fee at the supermarket to park your car in the supermarket lot while you spend money in their store.  My poor car didn't even get to see any elephants!  Anyway... Katelyn and I made our way to the Giant Center, a sturdy concrete and steel substitute for the traditional Big Top tent.  Our first stop was to see the animals who were paddocked outside in the parking lot on the far side of the stadium.  The elephants were once again the main attraction and were shaded from the sun by large festive tents.  You couldn't get nearly as close as I had as a kid, probably due to modern day liability issues. They didn't look so intimidating from a distance but I was glad to see they were no longer contained within leg irons like prisoners.        

Show Before the Show
Once inside, we easily found our seats and then headed back out into the stadium gallery to get some nourishment and maybe a souvenir or two.  It turned out to be the most expensive restaurant in town with maybe the exception of the Hotel Hershey.  A hot dog was $3.50 and the prices went up from there.  For a minute I thought I was at a Phillies game!  Maybe we should have waited for Dollar Dog Night!  We got some forgettable food that equaled the cost of a ticket and headed back to our seats.  We passed by a multitude of stands selling souvenirs adorned with the famous circus logo but decided to focus on the show which was about to begin.  There were various small acts taking place on the arena floor and people from the crowd were able to enter to see the action up close.  We thought about it but the journey was a long way down steep steps and things seemed to be wrapping up for the main event so we stayed put.  Katelyn brought along her binoculars and we checked it out from our perch high above the crowd. 

The White Stallions Rise
Soon the area floor was empty and the lights went dark, followed by an enthusiastic cheer from the sold-out crowd.  An impressive procession of entertainment flowed out of the arena entrance to the thrill of all.  Soon the Star Spangled Banner filled the air led by Lady Liberty aboard a very patriotic elephant decked out in red, white, and blue decorations.  One act followed another including, the trained horses, high wire balancing act, the big cats' tamer, acrobatics, gymnastics, strong men, clowns, clowns, and more clowns!  Oh, and did I mention the elephants?  It was a fabulous show for kids of all ages, including Katelyn and myself!  It was a mix of the traditional circus acts, enhanced with modern technology.  Many of the clown acts rotated to six different stations around the ring so every seat was a good one!  Unless, you have a fear of clowns, of course! 

High Wire Balancing Act
The show took a break for a short intermission to give the crowd time to visit the gallery, go buy more food, souvenirs, and visit the facilities.  I decided to buy a souvenir cup for soft drinks because it was a "better" value?  However, instead of getting my Diet Coke in a cup adorned with the coveted Ringling Brothers and Barnum Baily Circus logo, the refreshment stand attendant handed me a Hershey Bears cup?  What's up with that?  I've never been to a Hershey Bear's hockey game... I guess that's next on the list?  I already have the cup that designates me as a devoted fan!  Apparently the Hershey stadium concessions were on the inside of the gallery ring and the circus stands were on the outside.  I quickly got in line for a traditional box of circus popcorn.  However, when I got to the front they wouldn't take my debit card for payment... some circus concessions were "cash only" transactions.  Par for the course... live and learn.  Hey, I think the second half of the show is about to begin! 

Nice Kitties!
The second half of the show started out the with big cats' tamer whose co-workers didn't seem to like him very much.  Maybe it was all part of the act, but the tigers were baring their teeth and swatting their enormous claws at him every chance they got. He had a whip that seemed more for effect than defense or instruction.  They were all well trained but did resist his commands from time to time with life threatening expressions that suggested a violent death for the only food source within the cage.  The lion tamer was outnumbered and easier prey than a wounded newborn wildebeest on the African Savannah but all fell into line eventually with the cheers and applause from the crowd.  Wow, I wonder where that guy's life insurance rates top out?  I guess at the end of the day, if you don't get digested, it's a good day!

The Lion / Tiger Tamer
Ok, it's now time for a little history... The Ringling Brothers Circus has been around since 1884 and survived to later team up with P.T. Barnum and Bailey circus in 1907, which they ran as two separate shows until they merged into one big show in 1919.  The purchase of railroad cars in 1889 made the circus much more mobile, where the show could reach a much wider audience.  Unlike many of their competitors, Ringling Brothers and Barnum Baily Circus had a good reputation free from the gambling and shady ticket sales associated with the industry.  The freak shows associated with P.T. Barnum eventually evaporated over time.  Their honest and clean status allowed their company to become well known as a family friendly entertainment venue that endures to the present day.  I looked but couldn't find the bearded lady or a two foot tall man with two heads and a lizard tail... However, if you read those tabloid newspapers at the supermarket checkout... they still exist!

Spectacular Ending Ceremony
One of the highlights of the second half was the iconic man shot across the arena from a cannon but in this case it was a crossbow!  The bow was raised in the air, the daredevil assumed the position, was set on fire, and was shot the length of the stadium floor into an inflated air cushion that exploded as it collapsed under his weight!  Greatest Show on Earth, indeed!  A tumbling gymnastics act that could compete on any Olympic level finished up the three hours of action. Well all good things must come to an end and the grand finale brought out all performers for a well deserved bow that brought waves of rolling applause from the crowd. Katelyn and I really thought the entire show was incredible and an experience we will never forget.  We didn't buy any souvenirs but the best keepsakes are the pictures and memories we captured throughout the experience.  It really was The Greatest Show on Earth!

The Stars of the Show

Please View My Additional Circus Photographs at...


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